Richie bounced down the wide staircase of the centuries old mansion and flung the tall heavy oak front door open. "Well it's about time. Did you guys get lost?"
"Yeah, but I'm not sure how. Your directions were great. Big spooky house at the end of Main street." Adam Pierson grinned sarcastically. Did he know any other way? "You forgot the part about there not being any houses between you and the others for a half of mile."
"Oh, sorry." Richie clapped him on the back. "Well, come on in. Where's Connor?"
"Your Lord and Majesty is coming." Adam stepped in looking admiringly around the house.
"So you two getting along okay?"
"Oh, sure." Adam smiled that funny smile and spoke in the overly patient, each word pausing before it dropped the next- way that that told anyone who knew him well enough that he was in fact running out of patience with well meaning do gooders. "He kind of makes up for the last 2,000 years that I somehow managed to struggle through life without Kronos controlling my every breath. I really don't know how I survived."
"That bad, huh?" Richie laughed.
"No, not really. He can actually be fun. We've been to New York and Paris settling up all my stuff, so I could come here. How are you and Mac doing?"
"Great, so far. I was a little jittery for awhile. He walked on egg shells around me. Then I pissed him off one day, he blew up, didn't take my head and we've been fine since."
"What did you do?"
"Got myself kidnapped by satanic worshippers looking for their next sacrifice. Problem was part of their sacrifice included- " Richie made a swiping motion at his neck.
"Geeze, Richie, you'd think by now you'd learn." Adam scolded sarcastically.
"Yeah, it was so my fault. Not. What's wrong? You don't seem too happy to be here."
"He's whining." Connor popped in the door carrying a large duffel bag. "He thinks just because they rented his apartment to someone else that it's a sign to abandon medical school."
"No, such luck. If I have to do this, so do you." Richie took the bag from Connor. "Come on in, I'll get you a beer."
"You've never been to college, Richie. I've lost track of how many times I've been to medical school."
"He had it back to ten until he couldn't remember any more major events in history. Probably because he didn't pay attention in high school history class."
"I've never been to high school." Adam whined sarcastically. "They didn't have it in my day, and I was too old once it caught on. Besides I lived through it all."
"And you used your clairvoyant powers to see what was going on all around the world at the same time, without benefit of the telegraph, telephone, or the Internet, right?" Connor shook his head behind Adam's back, and Richie rolled his eyes.
"Right." Adam sauntered further into the large house, looking around appraisingly. "This is rather interesting. Old and spooky is right."
"I'm sure it will fit your wonderfully morose personality, just fine." Connor made hand gestures as though he was about to reach out and strangle Adam from behind.
"Yeah, but what if I want to have someone over? You know?"
"No worries." Richie laughed, more so at Connor than anything. "We have to ask Mac, but I bet you can have the caretaker's cottage out back."
"Kitchen, gathering room and private bed and bath."
"Are you serious?" Adam perked up. "Let's go see it."
Adam let Richie lead the way out the back door. Connor followed.
"So you've really been to medical school ten times?"
"More. There was 1970, just before WWII, right after the Spanish American War, before your Civil War, The Napoleonic Wars,?"
"Why, all surrounding war time?"
"Well it was give or take a year here and there, but I preferred going to the battlefield as a doctor rather than a soldier."
"Were you ever a soldier?"
"Not in modern times. Not in the last 2,000 years either. Before that I was just a raving lunatic, I wouldn't call it war."
Richie opened a heavily vined garden gate. The back yard was a tangled mass of over grown, trees, bushes and more vines. An occasional brave flower strangled up through the weeds for sunlight and air.
"Leave it to MacLeod to find a place with atmosphere."
"Atmosphere? You haven't seen nothing yet." Richie scoffed.
When Connor and Adam stepped through the gate, their eyes fell upon the caretaker's cottage. Boards were falling off, the paint was like that of the house, all peeling away and almost non-existent. There were several broken windowpanes and the door hung slightly off its hinges. Bricks were missing from the path. Richie ran up and threw open the door. "This is where it happened." He announced nonchalantly.
Adam rolled suspicious eyes at him. Connor tried to cover a grin having spotted that little gleam in Richie's eyes that he got when he was playing a joke. "Where what happened, Richie?" Adam insisted.
"The murders of course. You had to figure that out, right? I mean look at this place. No one's lived here for years. All the other houses for five blocks have been either boarded up or torn down. Yet no one has touched this house."
"Murders? Like how many?" Adam shivered involuntarily.
"Over time?" Richie shrugged. "Ten or twelve. They found eight in the flower beds. The rest are still missing."
"Yeah, this is the perfect place for a psychopathic medical student to study."
"Come on, Adam. It's been thousands of years since you were a psychopath."
"Actually, this isn't bad." Connor nodded. "Some paint, a few window panes. A few boards and shingles."
"Mac's got the stuff. It came this morning. We've got paint for the main house and this one. There's a guest house down the lane, but it's in even worse shape. He said we'd do it last. There are six bedrooms in the house so we have plenty of space inside, if you'd rather stay there."
"No, this is fine. Let's go inside." Adam's mind was obviously already at work on remodeling the cottage.
Inside he stood in the center of the gathering room and turned in a complete circle, dust kicking up with every step. The ceilings were high, like the ones in the main house. Two sets of French doors lined an outside wall. On the other side was a small kitchen with an old oak table. To the other side was a bedroom, complete with a large old oak canopy bed and another set of French doors.
Adam turned around with a small grin that soon crept into a broad smile. "Do you think Mac, will let me stay here if I do all the work?"
"I don?t see why not." Richie grinned.
When Duncan came home in the evening he was surprised to find no one in the house. He thought for sure, he'd have a living room full of immortals eating pizza and drinking up all his beer. So sure was he that his beer would be gone he stopped on the way home and picked up more.
"Richie!" Duncan hollered as he kicked the door shut behind him and did a quick survey of the first floor. A pounding hammer and the faint hums of other immortals were the only replies he received. They were coming from the back of the estate. He curiously made his way down the path to the garden gate that led to the caretaker's cottage.
Connor was hammering several replacement boards to the outside of the cottage. The window panes had been replaced and a good portion of the weeds had already been cut down.
"Hey, Duncan, good to see you. Nice place you have here." Connor raised his eyebrows and laughed his wicked laugh as he came to stand beside his younger kinsman.
Duncan was puzzled, but didn't want to seem ungrateful.
"We thought we'd give you a hand."
"Yes, but how did you know the cottage?"
"You have a new renter?"
"But, I haven't even told Richie. Where is he, by the way?"
"He and Adam are inside cleaning the place up." Connor followed Duncan inside the cottage.
"No, you have to beat the dust out like this!" Adam slammed Richie across the face and shoulders with an old pillow. From the looks of the dust covered duo it hadn't been the first hit.
"No, it's more like this!" Richie walloped the pillow he was holding across the top of Adam's head.
Connor laughed. "It's a good thing they're immortal and not asthmatic." Connor waved his hand in front of his face as the dust began to filter into the living room. "Excuse me, gentlemen!"
Adam and Richie both looked up laughing.
"Yeah?" Richie choked and Adam clocked him in the back of the head again.
"What is the first thing you do when you sense another immortal?"
"Run like hell usually works for me." Adam picked up a beer off the bureau and began wiping away the water ring it left on the antique wood.
"We know when it's you guys." Richie smiled. "Besides, we would have been more worried if we suddenly didn't sense you, Connor."
"Well, thanks I think."
"How did you know to clean up the cottage?" Duncan demanded. "And why are you sitting beer bottles on antique furniture?"
"I found you a renter, Mac." Richie smiled through dust covered cheeks.
"I already have a renter."
"Oh, this is my lucky day." Adam collapsed on the couch in defeat still clutching the pillow and the beer.
When Duncan looked confused Connor tried to explain. "They rented his apartment to someone else."
"Oh. Well, I'm sorry, Methos, but I've already promised that someone else could stay here."
"Yeah, okay." Adam took a swig of his beer. "Quit calling me that. It's just Adam now."
"Well look, don't worry, we've got six bedrooms in the house. It's not like you have no place to go."
"He's worried about his privacy." Connor added.
"In other words he's hoping to get lucky." Richie smiled.
"I figured that part out, and I'm telling both of you absolutely no college girls here. As a faculty member I could get in all kinds of hot water."
"Mac, it's a college town. What other girls do you think we're going to find?" Richie protested. "It' not like our age choices are real broad anyway. I mean even though people would get weirded out he could technically date my great, great, great, great, great, ?"
"I get the picture, Richie. Adam, get your feet off the table. You've got the manners of a barbarian."
"I am a barbarian." Adam guzzled his beer leaving his feet in place.
"Really? I could have sworn you just hit some magic reset button, Mr. Adam - don't call me Methos- Pierson." Duncan shoved Adam's feet off the coffee table.
All four immortals suddenly looked alert as the buzz of yet another of their kind was felt. "That should be Dr. Alldrege."
"And that is why I don?t want you to call me Methos anymore. You're going to slip."
"She's one of us? This place is going to be immortal grand central before long." Richie laughed.
"Duncan!" Dr. Alledrege appeared in the door way. "Is this the cottage?" There was an uncomfortable moment as she nervously took stock of the other three inhabitants of the room.
Connor smiled broadly and hurried across the room. "Angelique!"
"Connor!" The quick hug soon turned into a brief kiss, which was followed by an even longer kiss and finally a record breaking kiss.
"Oh great." Duncan shrugged with an exaggerated sigh and sat down on the couch also. "Every time. I don?t think there's one immortal woman he doesn't know."
"Do you mean that in the Biblical sense?" Adam grinned and spoke in lowered tones.
"You think they'll come up for air soon?" Richie wondered in a whisper.
"Would you?" Duncan asked almost as quietly.
"No." Richie shook his head laughing. From what he could see of her face her first death had probably been in her late twenties to early thirties. She was slim and attractive, dark hair, professionally dressed but in a style of her own. Richie had the nagging feeling that she reminded him of someone, but he had no idea who.
"So who is she?" Adam was still sprawled out on the couch, drinking his beer.
"Professor of psychology at the University. She deals a lot with people who have amnesia. I went to see her about- well the two of you. Turns out she's an immortal."
"What a coincidence!" Adam acted shocked. "I don?t have amnesia, I'm just too damn old."
"What ever." Duncan shook his head.
Connor and Angelique finally managed to disengage from each other. "Duncan, this is Angelique."
Connor's smile suddenly reminded Duncan of a few stories he'd heard long ago. "Oh, that Angelique!"
"Now you know why I picked this university. Angelique's specialty is traumatic amnesia. She being an immortal- well she might understand some of the memories easier than others."
"You can help me get my memory back?"
"Angelique has been out of the country for six months, Richie. I haven't had a chance to talk to her about you or Adam." Connor still held onto her hand affectionately.
"Adam is doing just fine, thank you. There are some things he doesn't need to remember." Adam stood up grumbling. A warning glare from Duncan, whose foot was blocking his escape path, put a stop to any further attitude problems. Adam went to Angelique with a polite smile. "But I am pleased to make your acquaintance." He held out his hand which she warmly took. "Adam Pierson at your service."
"Oh my," She smiled slipping into a New Orlean's accent that practically screamed Old South. "You do take me back a few years with your manners, sir."
"How many?" Richie grinned as he went to meet the newcomer.
"Why sir, you never ask a lady's age."
"I'm sorry, forgive me?" Richie also took her hand and gracefully bowed to kiss it. "How many years does that take you back?"
"About twenty." She smiled and eased back into the plain tones of a contemporary mid-western American accent. Richie groaned.
"Why didn't you tell me you knew Connor?" Duncan tried to smile warmly.
"Same last name does not a friend make, Duncan. Especially among our kind."
"True." Duncan nodded.
"Connor, are you starting your own immortal clan?" She asked in French.
"It seems that way, but I will be going back to New York soon. I'm only here to help get everyone settled."
"Yeah, this whole send everyone back to school thing is his idea, and he's going to take off and leave." Adam complained.
"Well, do you want to take a look around?" Duncan tried to change the subject.
"No, actually. I was trying to catch up to you to tell you that my apartment is available after all. The other guy found another place."
"That wouldn't happen to be the loft over on Central, would it?" Adam raised an eyebrow.
"Why, yes. How did you know?"
"I'm the other guy."
"Oh, well." Angelique looked around with a small laugh. "Good luck."
"Thanks, I think."
"I'll walk you to your car." Connor offered.
"Thank you. Nice meeting you all." Connor steered Angelique out of the cottage with an arm around her."
"You didn't tell her who I was, did you?" Adam asked urgently as soon as they had disappeared.
"Of course not. I don?t know her that well. I had no idea that Connor did. I thought she was a man."
"Uh, Mac." Richie tried not to laugh. "Maybe we should get your eyes examined."
"You know what I mean. I could have sworn the information I was given was for a man." Duncan playfully smacked Richie on the head.
"Then maybe that person should get their eyes examined." Richie picked up the pillow and clobbered Adam in the back of the head just as the ancient immortal took another swig of beer. The beer sloshed out as Adam managed to remove the bottle from the back of his throat.
"You son of goat loving, idol worshipping, swill drinking, flea infested, smelling camel!"
"Oh, yeah, talk like that covers your real age." Richie hit him again and Adam reached for his pillow.
"Give me those!" Duncan took both of the pillows away. "We'll get new ones."
"But that's real down!" Adam protested. "Do you know how long it takes to get the duck smell out of real down? I haven't had a real down pillow in 150 years."
"Fine, keep the pillows." Duncan couldn't resist the temptation to throw both pillows at Adam at once. "Anything you found in that room belongs in a museum and could never be washed. Similar to you." Duncan snatched the pillows back for his own safety.
"Bummer." Adam sat up coughing.
"Richie, come and help me with the rest of the groceries. And since you're on intimate terms with the pizza shop why don't you do the honors?"
"Sure." Richie started to follow MacLeod to the door.
"Intimate terms?" Adam grinned. "Are you holding out on me?"
"Afraid of some healthy competition? You know I won't- "
"Oh, yeah sure. Just like you wouldn't in Greece, right?"
"Now that was unintentional."
"New York? No, you turned the tables in New York. You took my date- "
"Oh, yeah. That's right." Richie laughed remembering the sweet revenge.
"Richie, groceries." Duncan insisted. "Adam?"
"Sure, let me put the paint brushes in to soak. I'll be right there."
Duncan and Richie left the cottage leaving Adam to himself for a moment. Maybe things weren't going so bad after all. He turned around in the gathering room appraising the work they had done so far. A really cool old house, medical school, good friends. Friends who knew his darkest secrets and still didn't kill him or run away screaming. As a matter of fact, this group had been sorely tested over the last few years and had passed through some amazing adventures, heartaches and joy and a least one miracle. So why was he allowing himself these periodic bouts of depression?
His thoughts were interrupted by the sudden swoosh of a large bird. He ducked in time to narrowly miss being hit in the head. The bird circled around the room once then landed on the small half wall that separated the kitchen from the gathering room.
"Hello? And what are you doing in here?" Adam moved closer to the bird, which gave out a warning caw. "You are an ugly son of a bird, aren't you? Well you're going to have to leave."
The bird gave another shrill warning filling Adam with a cold sense of dread. His gaze suddenly locked with that of the bird. He took a deep steadying breath as another memory overtook him.
He was standing outside Kronos' tent talking quietly with one of the other slaves, a girl about eighteen. She was for the most part doing all of the talking, as he was still rather rattled in thought and usually kept quietly to himself. He had helped her carry several large jars of water to be used for the evening meal. She was pretty and kind and had managed to coax him away from his usual habit of staying near the tent.
A large crow flew down near the yet unlit campfire searching for scraps. He watched the crow for several moments, it taking equal notice of him. Then all at once the crow took flight and he felt that sudden rush of bees in his head that usually meant the return of Kronos, or perhaps Silas or Caspian. He turned to watch as they rode into camp on their impressive horses and wearing all their battle gear. He wanted a horse like that. They seemed to be in good spirits and were carrying their spoils of the day. It had been a long time since they were on a raid and Methos wondered what they might have brought back this time. The last time Kronos had brought back new clothing especially for him.
It was such an odd feeling, never knowing if he should fear Kronos or be grateful to him. Kronos treated him different than the others. He allowed him to sleep inside his warm tent, gave him extra food and special treats, brought him gifts like he gave to none of the other slaves, and taught him how to do things other slaves were never allowed to do.
They had traveled alone for several years until Kronos had found two old friends who he thought had perished a decade ago. Silas was kind to Methos, because he understood that Methos was special to Kronos. Caspian was an evil sick man who alternated between scaring Methos and trying to entice him or force him into his tent alone. One night he had actually succeeded until Kronos had gone back to his tent to find his favorite slave missing. Methos had actually felt relief when Kronos burst in saving him from Caspian's artistic knife work. The two immortals had fought to the death, but in the end Kronos had not taken Caspian's head, realizing he needed the strong warrior.
Kronos himself had quit torturing Methos quite so severely as a reward for good behavior. There were nights, though, when the beast just couldn't stop himself. Those times were usually followed with special gifts or treats. Last night had been one of those nights and Methos found his curiosity growing wondering how Kronos was going to make amends. But then the monster had seen his prize possession talking shyly with the beautiful young girl.
When they dismounted from their horses, Kronos walked up to Methos and backhanded him to the ground. When he reached down and hauled him to his feet he shoved the young immortal into his tent, again knocking him to the ground.
"Caspian, take the girl. Do what you will."
"NO!" Methos screamed. "Please, no! Send me instead, please?"
"You fool! Don't you understand how many times Caspian will kill you? She can only die once! And trust me, my brother is far more creative at death than I ever care to be."
"Why must she die? We did nothing!"
Kronos hit him again. "You are not like they are. You must never associate with them again. You belong only to me! Do you understand?"
"Yes, please? Don't kill her!"
"She's already been given. You can beg all you want, but it is too late. You brought this upon yourself. You've been warned before about talking to anyone but me or my brothers."
Methos let go with all of his rage and tried to attack Kronos, nearly knocking him down, but soon found himself wrestled into submission through complete exhaustion. Kronos knocked him unconscious.
When he awoke later that night Kronos was sitting nearby sharpening a knife. Methos' eyes focused on the sharp blades. "So what shall it be?" The monster asked cheerfully. "Do I skin you alive?"
The large eyes grew even wider with fear. He was too frightened to speak.
"You know that's what Caspian wanted to do to the girl?" When Methos only stared, Kronos continued. "Perhaps I should let him have you instead?"
Methos nodded. "Don't let him hurt her."
"He didn't. She plunged his dagger into her own heart. He was quite disappointed. He insisted I let him have two more, but I told him we're running too low. He's had too much fun lately. Still he's demanding you in return."
Methos closed his eyes again. She was free. She had escaped Caspian's torture. "When he kills me, please don't bring me back."
"You know I want you here. You'll not get away that easily. Caspian will not harm you unless I allow it. Oh don't look so worried. Any generosity I'm feeling will be directed only to you. I brought you back a new blanket and I've no intention of getting blood all over it the first night. Well, much any way." Kronos moved easily across the tent with the blanket. At first look his eyes were filled with warmth and love, but Methos knew the look to well. He knew that behind the smile and the beautiful eyes was the heartless soul of obsession. He would wish to die many times this night.
Adam snapped out of his thoughts for a moment when he felt the buzz of another immortal grow near. There was that damn freedom in death thing again. Could that have really been his intentions? Every mortal he killed was one less that Caspian and Kronos couldn't torture.
"Hey, Adam." Richie landed in the room. "Come on. Whoa, where did that thing come from? That's got to be as big as the crow I saw in Scotland."
Adam didn't know what to tell him. He wasn't sure the words would even come out.
"Adam, come on man. It's just a bird. A crow. It's a big one I'll give you that, but it's not that scary. The one I saw in Scotland when that creep had me staked out was at least that big. Come on, buddy, snap out of it."
Richie gave up on Adam and grabbed the broom going after the bird. "Just go back out to whatever hell you came from, okay?" Richie waved the broom at the bird, causing it to take flight and dive at his head, plucking and clawing at the eternal teen as though he were the neighborhood cat.
Adam finally became more aware of his surroundings now that the bird he had been staring down was busy with Richie. He grabbed the broom and whacked the bird in the head. The beastly thing made a final dive at him then flew out the open doors.
"Richie, are you okay?"
"Yeah, fine." Richie finally stood up straight and began inspecting the scratches and gouges. He could feel the blood dripping down the sides of his face and head. He held one eye tightly shut- a large gash ran across the eyelid.
"These are terrible. If you weren't an immortal I'd been stitching you up now."
"What the hell was the matter with him?"
"Maybe I've taken over his home or something. Come on, let's get you up to the house and get these cleaned out."
"So how did your summer go?" Connor asked Duncan as he watched his kinsman putting away groceries. The older Scot had taken a beer to the kitchen table and stretched out tilting his chair back against the wall. "You and the boy doing okay?"
"I haven't tried taking his head if that's what you want to know." Duncan laughed.
"Shows restraint." Connor took another drink. "I meant in general. Six weeks ago the two of you were terrified of each other. You seem pretty relaxed together now."
"Well believe me, we started out on pins and needles. There was an incident that sort of changed all that though."
Duncan MacLeod opened the door between the two rooms in the inn where he and Richie had spent the night. Just as he thought, Richie was still sound asleep paying no attention whatsoever to his alarm clock. Duncan realized he probably shouldn't have given in to the young man's pleas for "just one more" round of Scottish ale. It was now ten o'clock in the morning and they had planned on leaving at 9:30 a.m. Duncan had knocked several times, but had received no answer.
"Hey, Rich, come on, wake up." Duncan tried not to smile at the dead to the world immortal teenager as he rolled him over on to his back with a bit of a shake. He gave him a couple of pats on the face. "Come on, Richie. Time to wake up."
"What?" Richie moaned. "No, Mac, let me sleep. Tess said I could."
"What did you say?"
"No!" Duncan gave him a hard shake and a big smile. "What did you say about Tessa?"
Richie tried to open his eyes. "What?"
Duncan could recognize the blank stare of unreality when he saw it. "We're you dreaming, Richie?"
"I guess. Leave me alone. I don't feel good."
"I don't expect you do." He laughed and pulled Richie up into a hug. "Do you remember your dream? Were you dreaming about Tessa?"
Richie just numbly laid his head on MacLeod's shoulder and drifted back to sleep.
"Oh no you don?t." Duncan laughed lightly. "It's time to get up. Richie, come on." Duncan held him quietly for a few moments just enjoying having him that close without the fear and timidity he usually received when trying to offer affection to the boy. Like so many times in the last few weeks he found himself thanking God for this miracle.
"Mac?" Richie asked faintly.
"I'm going to throw up."
Duncan quickly jumped off the bed and helped Richie into the bathroom.
When Richie finally immerged from the shower, fully dressed and ready to leave he had only a dull headache remaining from his earlier hangover. Still he looked tired and pained. He found all of his bags were packed and ready. Sometimes it made him nervous that Mac was so familiar with him and his life yet he had no knowledge of the older immortal. He had to constantly stop himself from feeling that MacLeod was intruding into his private space. He would remind himself continually that Mac felt he had the right to do these things.
Mac had also been trying a different approach to his amnesia. Where Adam and Connor told him very little about his past, Duncan was continually making references to the things they had done, including their life with Tessa. It was as though he was constantly trying to rebuild what Richie had lost. Richie noticed that Duncan skillfully avoided talking about the problems they had shared in the past. He had offered no more details to the sketchy facts he'd given him in the clearing a few weeks ago.
He went through the open door into MacLeod's room when he heard his voice on the phone. Mac sounded as though he was giving instructions to an accountant or a stockbroker. When he saw Richie he asked his caller to wait for a moment. "You look better. How are you feeling?"
"Like I'd rather have dinner at MacDonald's than MacBrewery tonight."
"You've got it. I'm just finishing with my accountant. He found some new business he thinks I should invest in."
"What is it?"
"Something to do with the internet."
"Oh, well two words of advice. Bill Gates."
"True. Why don't you take your bags down to the car and go on over to the restaurant? Order me that omelet thing I had yesterday and whatever you want. I'll be there in a few minutes."
"Sure. Do you want me to come back for your bags?"
"No, I've got them, thanks."
Richie carefully arranged his bags in the back of the SUV they had rented. It was identical to the one they had in New York except that it now had Scotland license plates. He laid his long coat and sword on top of the bags that were already in the vehicle. It was a warm beautiful summer day. How was he supposed to explain why he was carrying a raincoat on a day like this? He found the problem of concealing a sword a constant worry. People were going to think he was one of those gothic types, except that there was nothing else about him that would fit the part.
"Damn it!" He heard a young female voice shout and became aware that he had been hearing someone continually trying to start the blue van across the street. He looked over and saw her now struggling to open the back door on the van. He shut the SUV and ran across the street to help the pretty young blond in distress. "Can I help you with it?"
"Oh, hi, sure. The damn thing won't start. I need to get my tools out of the back and the door is giving me fits."
"Tools? You know how to fix this thing?"
"Sure. As often as it breaks down it pays to know."
"Well let me try."
The girl stepped back a bit to let Richie have a hand at the door. Richie pulled the door open with little difficulty turning to grin at her without looking into the van.
She smiled back. "Gee, but your dumb!"
"What?" Richie asked just as he was hit across the head with a crowbar and pulled into the van.
When Duncan looked out the hotel window he saw Richie talking to a pretty blond girl next to a van. "Well, that's the same old Richie," he said to himself as he hung up the phone. "I better get down there before they're married." He picked up his bags and went down to the front desk to check out. The talkative desk clerk kept him there for several minutes discussing fishing, the weather and his travel plans. When he finally broke away he loaded his bags into the SUV noticing Richie had left his coat in the back. He checked the coat and sure enough Richie's sword was still in it. Damn, when is ever going to learn? He picked up the coat and went immediately to the restaurant. He noticed the van was gone so Richie would probably have breakfast ordered and waiting- if he knew what was good for him. So far this day could pretty well be written off as far as progress was concerned.
In the restaurant he found several patrons sitting down to lunch, but found Richie no where. The waitress could not remember him coming in at all. "But he was suppose to come in and order breakfast."
"Well breakfast has been over since ten o'clock. Maybe he read the sign and went elsewhere."
"Maybe. Where's the next diner?"
"There isn't one, but maybe he tried the pub at the end of the street."
"Do they serve breakfast?"
"No, but it's the only place else on the street."
"Is there a McDonalds nearby?"
"Old man McDonald?"
"No, the hamburger place."
"I thought he wanted breakfast."
"He did, but- never mind."
"The closest McDonald's is ten blocks north." The waitress grinned letting MacLeod know she was intentionally aggravating him.
"Thank you." He smiled back.
Duncan went back to the hotel to ask the desk clerk if Richie had come back for any reason. When that failed he began checking the narrow alleys. He was starting to worry. He told himself not to, but he couldn?t help it. Richie had probably just gone with the girl to the nearest gas station. He went back to the SUV and threw the coat and sword into the seat next to him. Surely the girl was not an immortal. Wouldn't he have felt her presence while she stood there talking to Richie? He had sensed Richie from the distance of the hotel, but no one else.
Over the next hour Duncan searched the local area three times. He checked back at the restaurant and the hotel and even drove the ten blocks to the nearest McDonald's. By late afternoon, he could only conclude that something had happened to Richie. Why would he just up and leave like that on his own? They had been getting along really well- nervously at times, but nothing so drastic that he would want to leave. Perhaps the hang over was more serious than Duncan had realized. Maybe he was just asleep somewhere. If that was the case Duncan should have picked up his sensation by now. He couldn't have traveled too far if he was that ill to begin with. What if he had lost his memory or slipped back into a catatonic state again? Perhaps the girl had taken him to a hospital.
When the hospital angle played out, Duncan felt his heart sink. Something had happened to him. Richie surely wouldn't have gone off all day knowing they were about to leave town. If anything Richie had been over cautious when it came to keeping Duncan happy. He was never quite able to hide his constant nagging fear that Duncan might try to hurt him. It had gotten to the point that the Scot wondered if the kid would ever be comfortable with him again. So why would he intentionally pull a stunt like this?
Duncan debated with himself about going to the police for at least a half an hour. If Richie had met with another immortal there would be a lot of explaining to do. But, if the boy had suddenly forgot everything again he could wander aimlessly for days. Who knows where he might end up?
MacLeod found himself sitting at the local police station filing a missing person's report. The detective, a middle aged balding man seemed to be somewhat interested in the case from the very moment Duncan mentioned he was searching for a young friend.
"How old is he?"
"He looks younger than he is. He appears to be around twenty at most."
"What does he look like? How tall?"
Duncan offered all the particulars, which seemed to intrigue the detective even more. "You said he was fair complexioned, right?"
"Yes, reddish blond, short curly hair. Why? Have you found someone like that today?"
"No, no that's not it. I'm just trying to make sure I get the details right."
"Right." Duncan regarded him suspiciously.
"You wouldn't happen to have a photograph?"
"Yes." Duncan pulled his wallet out and finally produced a photo of Tessa and Richie.
"Pretty lady. Don't tell me she's the mother?"
"Richie lived with us as a foster son for awhile. Tessa and he were very close."
"Enough of the past tense." The detective encouraged smiling nervously.
"No, she passed away a few years ago."
"Oh, I'm sorry. That must have been difficult for you both?"
"Yes. Detective, there's something else I need to mention."
The detective regarded MacLeod suspiciously, and Duncan realized he was probably waiting for the bigger picture. He was expecting some admission of a problem between the two of them, or perhaps a confession that the boy used drugs, or one of a number of other reasons not to look for Richie.
"Richie is just recovering from amnesia. Actually he hasn't recovered a bit. He was catatonic for awhile. When he came out of that he had no memory of anything. All he knows about himself is what he's been told the last year."
"I see." The detective was thoughtful for a moment. "Do you think he might have slipped back a bit? What caused his condition."
"It's possible, I suppose. He witnessed a very traumatic incident I'd rather not discuss."
"Involving your wife?"
Duncan sighed deeply and nodded. "Actually, he witnessed that as well."
"Are you sure he wasn't responsible for both incidents?"
"Positive." Duncan knew the man wasn't convinced so he had to hedge the truth. "There were other witnesses."
"I see." Detective Fraser leaned down and pulled several files from his drawer and threw the heap in front of Duncan. "I'm going to level with you, Mr. MacLeod. There isn't much hope in getting the lad back."
Duncan stared at him, his mouth falling open in stunned silence. Finally he looked at the first file. He almost began to shake as he saw the photograph. The photograph, obviously provided by the family was of a blond teenager.
"Go, no further. Just look at the next file." The detective pulled the first file away.
Duncan carefully opened the second file. "My God." He quickly opened the third then fourth and fifth file. All the victims were young men in their late teens and early twenties. As soon as he looked at each file the detective snatched them back.
"What happened to them? What are you trying to say? They've all been killed by the same man?"
The detective nodded.
"Let me see the files."
"It won't do you any good. They're horrible photographs you don?t want to see."
Duncan knew he was right. Experience told him what was in there. He'd seen too many battlefields, too many quickenings, and too many murder scenes to not know the grizzly acts that could be performed on the human body. He really had no desire to look at pictures of brutally murdered young men.
"These lads have been disappearing over the last few months. They're all from the various towns around here within a hundred miles. They've all been killed in satanic rituals during the new moon. They were all seen talking to a pretty girl about their age just before they disappeared."
"Where were they found at?"
"Various places. There's been no pattern established. The bastard's too bright for that."
Duncan didn't know how to ask the question he feared the most. The detective would have to wonder why he asked such a hideous thing. It wasn't exactly the first thing that came to the normal concerned family member's mind. Fortunately fate stepped in and the detective was called away for a moment. Duncan picked up the first file and flipped through it. When he saw what he needed to know he quickly closed the file and slammed it back down on the desk. He buried his face in his hands and propped his elbows on his knees trying to get air.
The detective came back with a hot cup of coffee. "Damn it. I told you not to look in the file and you did it anyway didn't you?"
Duncan took a deep breath and tried to sit up. He had to get his thoughts together. He couldn't let Fraser know what he was thinking. Well, why not? If he and Richie were mortal he would be sitting here just as worried. No one else would have the advantage of knowing his or her child wouldn't die despite such brutal treatment. Knowing the victims were decapitated now made him just as mortal as any other worried parent.
To Part 2